Ross School fourth graders recently participated in a hands-on primitive survival skills workshop to complement their studies of early human communities and culture. Jeffrey Gottlieb, a naturalist and primitive technology and skills expert, led the activities. Using materials like those used by our Paleolithic ancestors in their daily lives, students drilled shale beads with a flint stone drill, created cordage and rope from natural plant fibers, used a friction bow fire drill to create fire, and practiced flint-knapping to make tools.
Jeffrey kicked off the day with a review of the timeline of human physical and cultural evolution, pointing out important developments such as the emergence of the first “power tool,” the Acheulean hand axe. He then gathered the students in a circle to display and discuss items from his personal collection of natural materials, historic artifacts, and replicas.
Students also received a history lesson about Long Island as Jeffrey held up flint and quartz while explaining that a glacier deposited most of the rocks we see locally today. They were excited to handle a Celt stone hammer that Jeffrey made using a local stone.
As the class worked on their primitive projects, Jeffrey shared other interesting information about the habits and behaviors of early humans and how they utilized the tools the students were making. As a naturalist, he was able to point to his own skills and experiences for a firsthand perspective on how our ancestors made clothes, tanned animal pelts, and built shelter (Jeffrey has been building wigwams for years).
Fourth grade teacher Alicia Schordine said the students enjoyed learning with Jeffrey: “The workshop was an entertaining, educational experience for the students, and offered a deeper perspective on what our ancestors went through to survive and thrive.”